2010-01: Fall 2009 Verbose Letter


This term was the first time in my life that I felt challenged. As hard as it tried, it didn't stop me. Thus, I now feel unstoppable. That is good for my confidence and for causing me to take risks in helping the world, and it is bad for moderating myself and getting sleep.

I did a lot of computery things. I started the year with a two week seminar with my advisor on Great Ideas in Computer Science. It set the stage for the awesomeness of the term. CS221 was the reason my term was hard. I had my first all nighter working on CS221. Then I had my second all nighter working on CS221. It taught me a lot, and it gave me confidence about my CS and study skills. In turn, I taught a computer how to see. Unfortunately, it never got very confident. In CS107, a computer systems class that's taught in assembly and C, I learned that 1000000000! = 0, and I got famous. I'm not sure whether my fame was national or international, but it certainly extended beyond the Stanford bubble, and it all happened because of my common decency. In CS103, I learned about complexity. I already knew a lot of it because it wasn't a very complicated subject. 

My CS work wasn't limited to the curriculum. I did some work for the student government technology team. I made one website that was extremely popular and one that has never been updated and probably has never been viewed either. I was, and still am, planning a Hackathon, which connects computer science students with nonprofits for a 24 hour coding marathon. 

My CS interests have evolved. I was inspired by a video of a talk that was InSTEDD's conceptual birth. Now, I'm thinking about biocomputation and getting an MD/PhD so that I can use CS to wipe malaria off the globe. 

My CS future is looking bright. I didn't fail any of my technical interviews. As a result, I got accepted as a section leader (like a TA-lite) for the introductory CS classes at Stanford, which will start in winter term and will be awesome. I have an internship offer at Google and at InSTEDD, and I'm not sure which I'll take. Google's interviews were also surprisingly easy.

I didn't neglect the non-CS part of me, though I may have killed off a large part of it. In my Feminist Studies class, I learned about the prevalence of patriarchy and relationship abuse. For instance, the original "rule of thumb" is that a husband can beat his wife with a rod that's no thicker than his thumb. In my history class, I learned that slavery is the rule, not the exception, in global human history. In Urban Studies 131, I got lectures from different social entrepreneurs every week. Their organizations are amazing, but most of the focus was on their stories and their character as individuals. The common theme seemed to be that I, too, can buy a one way ticket to Nicaragua. 

The extracurriculars have been fairly good, too. Coaching the debaters at Palo Alto HS has been very rewarding, and I'll be the head policy coach next year. Also, I'm the cochair of Stanford's Queer / Straight Alliance. The events that we plan are good, but the work is mostly logistical, which I don't like that much, so it isn't intrinsically rewarding like Computer Science is. As a result of the work I do for QSA (and as a debate coach and for the student government and for Hackathon), I'm being recognized for an award from Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service. Debating for Stanford hasn't been the most rewarding, but I managed to keep the program alive, which was my goal.

The academic events on campus have been awesome. I got a picture with Noam Chomsky. He is a genius. I saw the founder of Kiva twice. She was better the first time. I didn't see any big name politicians (as noted in previous letters, they tend to give boring and contentless talks). Instead, I saw Fred Hampton Jr. Some queer authors also had book readings and talks that made me think about philosophy and identity.

As far as life goes, I haven't had enough time to be as social as I would like, but I did manage to bake lots of cookies. I also discovered what it's like to live in a college dorm room that has no closet or dresser: spotless and organized. I saw two rappers that I listen to: Zion I and Immortal Technique. Immortal Technique gave a lecture rather than a concert, though. I spent Thanksgiving with my roommate from last year. I was the only vegetarian, but they took good care of me. There were even some people as crazy as me politically! It also got me started reflecting on nationalist and religious identities, which continued over Christmas break. While I met the stereotypical college student on the train ride back home, I met the stereotype of college students writing bad checks. Whoops. To my horror, I also discovered that, having used almost 6GB of email storage space, I am running out of space.

Yes, this is my longest letter yet. This time, though, it has enough pictures to tide you through the rants and philosophizing. Also, the content isn't really that long. If you deleted all of the content, there would still be 9 pages of headings and subheadings and 4 pages of pictures.

Next term, because of the thoughts of pre-med and biocomputation, I'm section leading, taking an algorithms class, and taking lots of bio and chem.